!Please Note!

You are using an outdated browser that may impact your experience on FCA.org.
Please upgrade to the latest version of Internet Explorer here or download another browser like Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.
Once you upgrade, this notice will no longer appear.

Hands & Feet of Jesus

Published on April 22, 2019

Danielle Ripley-Burgess
It was a little after noon when Joe Gillis found himself already weary from his early morning schedule at the track. As he sought God’s plans for his life in his Delaware hotel room, he received immediate direction.

God was calling him to take the Gospel to those caring for his award-winning Arabian horses—many of them poor, non-English-speaking workers. The dedicated Sunday school teacher had an immediate idea. 

 “I knew the way to reach them was a Bible, and especially in their language,” Joe remembered. He called a handful of friends who affirmed and supported his ministry at the track.

“I encouraged Joe to see the unique sphere of influence God has given him and to maximize his influence in that sphere for Christ,” said Dr. Gary Cramer, a friend and University of Alabama FCA Director.

One of the other men Joe called about the Bible project was Del Wright, FCA’s Field Vice President, Southeast Central Region.

“I knew FCA produced Bibles for sports—football, basketball, baseball and others,” Joe said. “So I asked Del, ‘Why not do one for racing?’” With Joe’s resources and FCA’s experience, the New Testament, named The Ultimate Victory, got underway with versions in both English and Spanish.

Joe and Betty
Joe and Betty Gillis

As supernatural doors swung open, it was clear the project was God-inspired. Many famous jockeys who held tremendous influence got on board, like Kentucky Derby winner and Horse Racing Hall of Fame inductee Pat Day, and Mike Smith, the rider of Justify who won the American Triple Crown in 2018. Plus, the Race Track Chaplaincy of America (RTCA) embraced and supported the project; today it’s used and distributed as their signature Bible.

The Ultimate Victory became one of the many ways God has used Joe Gillis as His hands and feet.



“My grandmother had a tremendous influence on me,” reflected Joe, whose earliest memories involve going to church with her while his father fought in WW2.

Church services as a very young boy sowed early seeds of faith that sprouted before Joe turned 12. In a “little bitty church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama,”

9-year-old Joe walked the aisle to respond to a salvation invitation. A couple of years later, during a big tent revival with sawdust on the ground at age 11, Jesus got ahold of Joe’s heart. Joe lived a Christian life throughout childhood and into his teenage years. Following high school, he became a first-generation college student at the University of Alabama where he majored in marketing. College brought an onslaught of responsibilities, including working 40-hours a week, taking a heavy class load, and supporting his family, whom he later moved to Mississippi for a job opportunity.

“By the time I graduated, I had a wife, four kids, and I owned three houses,” said Joe. Joe’s faithful wife, Betty Jean, has come alongside him every step of the way from businesses to horses and sharing the Gospel. With support from Betty and his four kids, Joe’s talents in commercial real estate opened the door for him to start Dutch Oil Company. Dutch Oil and its Sprint Mart partners are currently the largest convenience store truck stop chain in the state of Mississippi, and one of Joe’s largest businesses.

“My wife says I can turn anything into a business,” laughed Joe, who shared that his venture into raising Arabian horses was meant as a hobby and retirement plan. Yet the horses have also found immense success; Joe and Betty Jean have received recognition like Arabian Breeder of the Year and Owner of the Year in the U.S. on multiple occasions. And while Joe’s family says he can turn anything into a business, he also turns everything into a ministry.



“I didn’t know about FCA until my friend Jake Mills got saved and called to tell me about it,” remembered Joe, who says the mission and need of FCA captivated him in the early 1980s.

He became one of the first to serve on the Mississippi state board, which led to his service on several other boards, including the FCA Board of Trustees. Joe helped hire Bill Buckner, a man of God who grew to lead both Mississippi and Alabama for many years before he passed, a man with whom Joe became “joined at the hip” and committed to serving as a faithful board member and brother in Christ. One day, Bill called Joe with the opportunity of a lifetime.

About Joe:
- He recruited for the legendary football coach Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama for 12 years.
- His hero is Dr. Billy Graham.
- Joe and Betty host an FCA Equestrian Camp for local students each summer.
- His work with FCA got him inducted into the A Club at the University of Alabama.

“FCA at Alabama has been on campus since 1964; however, it had fallen on very hard times,” Dr. Cramer said. “Joe became the Chairman of the Board for ‘Bama FCA and provided a fresh start. He has led our board well! We have seen numerous student-athletes go into full-time ministry, some with FCA and others as local church pastors. Through Joe’s leadership and investment, we have created a culture of engaging those who are far away from God, establishing those who trust Him, equipping them to serve Him, empowering those who are equipped to serve, and exporting those who are empowered to go! Joe’s legacy will be the changed lives that are the result of his lifelong investment!”

Many of his friends, family and peers attest: what Joe Gillis touches multiplies and strengthens. He’s especially excited and passionate about the vision of FCA spreading around the world.

“Joe has a passion for the nations,” said Dan Britton, FCA’s Executive Director, International Ministry. “Over the years, he has invested in Bible development and distribution so coaches and athletes can engage in the Word of God.”

For decades, Joe has invested into FCA to ensure athletes and coaches gain access to God’s Word. It’s one of many ways He’s fulfilling the Great Commission. From Bibles to businesses and boards, the focus of Joe’s life remains as simple as the day he surrendered under a big tent with sawdust under his feet.

“Spreading the Gospel is the bottom line,” Joe said. “The number of people we can reach is absolutely mind-boggling.”


“Joe’s fingerprints and influence are all over our Southeast Central Region and beyond. God has used him to launch four FCA Leadership Boards and financially support countless FCA staff. We thank God for Papa Joe and BJ! Their love, friendship and partnership in ministry is a tremendous blessing to us all!”

–Del Wright, FCA Field Vice President, Southeast Central Region